Bushland grad Cornelius relishes opportunity in the XFL


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Bushland graduate and former Oklahoma State QB Taylor Cornelius slings a pass during a preseason scrimmage for the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL during training camp in January. [Photo cred: Tampa Bay Vipers Twitter account]

The rebirth of the XFL kicks off Saturday in hopes to redeem itself from its flop of its lone season in 2001.

This isn’t the same XFL driven by scripted commentary, anticipated WWE type violence, and players diving for loose balls to replace a coin flip.

Today’s XFL is giving the fan a different style of football thanks to elaborate, outside the box thinking of the rulebook, and familiar names among coaches and players.

One name on an XFL roster hits home here in the Texas Panhandle.

Bushland graduate and former Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius was selected in the skill round of the XFL Draft in October by the Tampa Bay Vipers.

The 6-foot-6, 232 pound gunslinger recently made the Vipers 52-man roster, and will serve as the backup QB to former Georgia star Aaron Murray.

Cornelius hasn’t completed a meaningful pass since his days at OSU in 2018, throwing for 3,978 yards with 32 touchdowns.

Vipers veteran coach Marc Trestman — whose one of many professional football stops includes a head coaching stint with the Chicago Bears (2013-2014) — spoke highly of Cornelius’ work during training camp during a recent interview.

“Taylor Cornelius had a very, very good OTAs,” Trestman told the Vipers social media account while breaking down quarterbacks.

“We watched him play his last year at Oklahoma State, and we are extremely high on his ability and leadership qualities. He also had a very good training camp, and he has been very productive in practice and has really won the backup role at quarterback. If something would happen to Aaron early on for some reason, Taylor would be the first quarterback to go in just because of his reps in his time that he has played in OTAs and training camp.”

The Vipers open their XFL regular season schedule at the New York Guardians at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Cornelius took time out of his busy schedule to chat with Press Pass Sports about his opportunity in the XFL.

How’s Tampa Bay?

“It’s great,” Cornelius said with a chuckle. “It’s 82 degrees everyday.”

The XFL seems to be taking themselves seriously from the last time out. Do you agree?

“Oh, for sure. From my perspective it is first class. They want up-tempo style of play. They are doing their best to make it more fan friendly also. Some players will be mic’d up on field and in locker room. This won’t be anything like the first time around. They want an up-tempo, fast friendly game, and it will be exciting for fans.”

What kind of opportunity does this give you and all the players in the league?

“I think we’re lucky to have the XFL. If it wasn’t for this league, a lot of guys, including myself would be sitting at home. This is giving us a chance to put a tape together against talent, and hopefully get an NFL shot.”

Not only this league have some familiar players, but veteran coaches like Bob Stoops or your coach Mark Trestman. That has to be big for you guys?

“The coaches in this league are great. I think that’s one thing XFL really wanted to invest in. For me, coach Trestman has been great. He’s been around football at all levels for a longtime, and has a ton of knowledge. He’s helped me develop.“

Where would you say your game has progressed the most since college?

“I think the most is just simplifying things. It’s been more off the field than on. That’s where coach Trestman has helped me the most. He’s been great teaching me the ins and outs, and it’s been nice to grow and learn.”

What are your thoughts on the mandatory conversion rule after a touchdown, and no extra-point?

“I like it. I see why they are trying to do it. They want to promote comebacks and keep games interesting. Plus, they want a different game than what you’re used to. Fans aren’t necessarily going to see the boring extra-points made, so this will be exciting.”

Where will we see the game sped up the most?

“Well, the play clock is only 25 seconds. There is a designated ball spotter and as soon as he sets it the clock starts. Also, all position groups except for lineman will have a headset in their helmet, so communication is much easier.”

What are you looking forward to the most?

“I think just getting an opportunity. I’m getting a chance to do what I love, and hopefully I can make the most of it and get a chance in the NFL, and go from there.”


Cornelius isn’t the only local player from the Amarillo-area in the XFL. Former West Texas A&M kicker Sergio Castillo earned a spot on the Houston Roughnecks. See his story by KAMR-KCIT sports director Clint Brakebill below.


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